With summer in high gear and the 2014–15 school year behind us, I’d like to take a moment to offer a few highlights from Green Dot Public Schools‘ accomplishments over the past 12 months and to thank our team members whose hard work, creative thinking, and commitment to our organization have collectively made such a powerful and positive difference for our students and their communities.
First, some numbers. The 2014–15 school year marked our 15th anniversary of operating successful public schools. Green Dot served ~11,000 students across 22 schools and graduated 1,534 seniors. It is a testament to them, their families, and our team members that 96% of them were accepted into two- or four-year colleges and universities. This year, in Los Angeles, we opened two new middle schools: Ánimo Ellen Ochoa and Ánimo Mae Jemison, both named for pioneering women of color in our national space program. Our aspirations for our students are appropriately linked to these role models, who have pushed societal and physical boundaries alike. There is no limit for how high and far our students can soar.
This past year, we also launched our partnership with the Achievement School District in Memphis, Tennessee, working with the Fairley High School community to provide students the indispensable educational opportunities they deserve. And we’re hard at work this summer preparing the Wooddale Middle School campus for their re-start as a Green Dot school.
As I write, we’re preparing to open our first school in Washington State, where historically underserved neighborhoods in both Tacoma and South Seattle are demonstrating a clear need for fresh and high-quality educational opportunities. We are eager to welcome our first class of sixth graders to Destiny Middle School in Tacoma – City of Destiny. Our expansion into Washington and Tennessee reflects Green Dot’s commitment to grow our organization nationally and provide high-quality options for the nation’s most under-resourced students.
The students from our Class of 2015 are going places. From our initial surveys (we’ll be gathering data all summer), 291 students from Green Dot schools were admitted to the California State University system, and 129 more to the University of California (including 52 accepted to UCLA). This fall, graduates from our schools will be headed to Stanford and Berkeley; DePauw and Vanderbilt. Forty-three will be attending private colleges, including Ivy League schools, and we’re proud to announce that for the first time, Green Dot alumni will be among the incoming freshmen at Yale and Harvard. As I said, there really is no limit to how high our students can soar.
Making the Grade
Our schools continue to receive recognition in the national media. Last August, Newsweek’s The Daily Beast ranked five Green Dot high schools among the best in the nation at preparing students for college. This year, a Washington Post survey listed six Green Dot high schools among the top 2% most academically challenging in the nation. (One school, Ánimo Venice Charter High School, was named the 74th most challenging in the nation.) And, in May, US News & World Report named eight of our schools among America’s Best High Schools — the largest group of schools in Green Dot’s 15-year history to receive this honor.
In October, the US Department of Education awarded Green Dot Public Schools a five-year, $14-million grant for the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools. The grant — one of only 11 such awards and the second-largest in 2014 — allows Green Dot to open new high-performing community schools for as many as 10,000 additional students in Southern California, Tennessee and Washington. A month later, in November, the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce named Green Dot Public Schools the 2014 Education Nonprofit of the Year, honoring our innovative approach to meeting high academic standards.
Supporting Our Teachers
Our schools succeed because they’re filled with excellent teachers. Green Dot supports its teachers through collaborative classroom observations that inform individualized coaching and improve professional practice. In 2014–15, we expanded our professional development program to help teachers align their instruction with the Common Core and improve their effectiveness in the classroom with these new rigorous standards. Also this year, Green Dot’s Counselor Steering Committee generated a new counseling rubric and launched a counseling pilot to test some new approaches and programs. Throughout the year, our Education Team hosted a series of focus groups and teacher dinners, sitting down with our most experienced teaching staff to cultivate hundreds of ideas on how to best sustain their careers. We value our teachers’ voices and their creative problem-solving approach in the decisions we make.
We’re also grateful for Green Dot’s parents, who support and energize our schools and help connect them to our communities. Green Dot seeks to empower parents to become active participants in civic engagement and community revitalization. In December, we hosted our first annual United Parent Assembly at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where close to 2,000 parents gathered to demand safer passages to and from school for their children, cleaner neighborhoods, and increased wages and job opportunities. The Assembly caught the attention of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who met with the group in February to address their concerns. And just this May in Tacoma, more than 400 parents, students, and community members joined us at a kickoff dinner to learn more about our schools and our programs and how they can benefit their communities.
Looking to the Future
We’re proud of Green Dot Public Schools and our 15-year record of commitment to education reform. We continue to hold a vision of ensuring access to a great school in every neighborhood so that every child can have a positive educational experience and fulfill his or her dreams in life – and to soar to the heights they imagine for themselves. From continuous academic improvement to the development of a nationally recognized system of professional evaluation and training, Green Dot has proven its model is helping to close the opportunity gap for some of the nation’s most underserved communities. I want to thank you for the part you played in getting here, and invite you to watch us closely as we seek to make even greater gains in 2015–16.
Here’s to another year of great successes!
CEO, Green Dot Public Schools National